It was just before dawn as seven bulky men in T-shirts and sweatpants gathered in front of a towering glass building on Lexington Avenue in New York City. Marcelo Crespo, a 41-year-old with gleaming green eyes and a goatee, beckoned the group over to a white company van, handing each man a pile of protective gear: face mask and respirators, full-body coveralls, shoe covers, hard hats, masking tape.
Clutching their bundles, the men entered through the back door of the building, taking the utility elevator up 32 floors to the roof. The day before, they had sealed up the workspace like an enormous Ziploc bag, covering a large section of the roof with protective plastic structures to shield it from the open air. Before passing through the clear sheeting, Crespo rattled the scaffolding, checking its stability. He traced a sign of the cross on his chest and whispered a prayer that God keep them all safe. Warning signs plastered the makeshift walls, boxes, and equipment. Caution. Danger. Authorized personnel only.